Was The Census A Flop? -As Pundits Call it “A Waste”

MONROVIA – When the government took the decision to conduct the fifth National Population and Housing Census, it was an understanding that it will enable the government to obtain the necessary data that will be used for development purposes as well as using it for the purpose of demarcating additional electoral districts during the 2023 general elections. After several postponements and huge resources from both the government and her international development partners, the census was conducted amidst controversies arising from the outcome and nothing much has been said about it again, thus raising the question whether it has ended up as a flop. The Analyst Report

There is a growing concern among stakeholders which include political parties, civil society organizations(CSOs), media institutions, religious organizations, labor unions, youth and student organizations, among others about what has become of the 2022 National Population and Housing Census conducted last year amidst the huge enthusiasm from the citizens just as pundits have asserted that in as much as the project was a national necessity, current situation around it has rendered the whole exercise as a “waste”.

On February 22, 2023, the implementer of the project, the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services(LISGIS) released to the public the preliminary figure of 5,248,621 people, representing an increment of 1.8 million people from its 2008 figure which stood at 3,476,608 people at a colorful ceremony held at the Monrovia City Hall which was attended by an array of government officials led by Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor, members of the diplomatic corps, the international community, civil society groups, among others.

Aside the many controversies that trail the entire process which include but not limited to corruption involving authorities at LISGIS, irregularities, such as poor timing, ineffectiveness and inefficiency in the training of enumerators, among others, the final outcome as was announced on the official day of presentation did not give enough reasons why the citizens should be excited.

A retired civil servant who spoke to The Analyst on condition of anonymity, said the LISGIS left people to wonder about the actual figure that came out of the census when it announced that what was presented was a preliminary report but did not give any time line when the actual figure was to be made public.

About a month after the announcement was made, there is no news when the realistic figure will be made public as LISGIS continues to keep the public guessing.

“What was done on that day to announce the preliminary figure was deliberate. It was to buy time and remove the trail of criticisms that greeted their report. What you saw was the actual figure and nothing else will come after. It was unfortunate that the country will be treated this way”, he said.

Wilson Teepon Sr, a social critic said further expanded on this when he said with the inability of LISGIS of not being able to come up with the actual figure and hiding behind “preliminary report” to shy away from the falsehood presented to the Liberian people, it made it for people to harbor enough reasons why the exercise was a waste and should not have even being thought of.

“So how long are we going to wait? What is there that we are waiting for that will be different from what has been declared? It is high time that the government comes up with a clear position statement to annul the report and apologize to the Liberian people and the international community for the grand deceit experienced from what came out of the census that took away so much resources, time and energy”, he said.

Last week, a number of pundits who spoke to The Analyst said the manner in which the census was conducted and the stalemate that followed is a reflection of what the country has been reduced to where no one seems to care about major issues in the country and wondered if as important as the national census is not something should claim the concern of the citizens then what else.

According to them, whatever one sees it, there was nothing short of it that the census was a monumental failure and the citizens should take a firm stand to reject it even if the government is shameless to admit that it was a sham.

“In the first case, the figure as was announced cannot be taken as reliable and be used for development purposes, the overall objective for which it was undertaken. What baffles the country most is the government said it is a preliminary report but did not state when the real figure will be announced with all the tactics being put in place to perpetually keep everyone in the dark”

“Secondly, as was expected, the figure cannot and will not be used for the 2023 general election where it was expected to serve as a basis for the demarcation of additional electoral districts in the country. Why then was the main reason why this census was conducted? This is very embarrassing”. Said Joshua Wesser III, National publicity Secretary of a CSO, “Thinking Beyond Common Reasoning, Inc.

A demography instructor at the state run University of Liberia who pleaded not to be named in the papers said the census report as announced cannot be taken as the official figure because it is yet to be validated. He said having been received by the government, if it accepts it, then the next thing is to send it to the national legislature for deliberation and a final decision has to be sent to the President for the final announcement to be made.

In an email message shared with a number of media houses last week, copy of which was sent to The Analyst, a civil society organization, Liberia Union for National Awareness (LUNA) said it has been taking stock of the colossal damage the “failed 2022 National Population and Housing Census has brought to the country” and submitted that it is something that will haunt the government for a long time.

“We have been making some financial and socio-political calculations and our understanding is there was a huge injury inflicted on the country and its people. Besides the up to the USD15m spent from the national treasury, the other support from the international community notwithstanding, our image and reputation with the international community was damaged. They take us as very unserious people.

“They believe we duped them out of their resources. We lied to them a lot which they do not deserve. These are things they will not tell us but in their circles they do these things among themselves and we think we are smart.

“At a time when it was obvious that the census was not going anywhere, we continued to drag them along and assure them that things will be okay. Here we are with a bogus report and we expect anyone to believe us”, the group said.

It can be recalled that the census report has come under heavy criticism from the public including the opposition community.

“Several years after the failure of the Congress for Democratic Change’s (CDC) government to fulfil article 39 of the 1986 constitution, which mandates that “the Legislature shall cause a census of the Republic to be undertaken every ten years”, a somewhat fraudulent census process was finally initiated between November 14 and December 18, 2022.

“Prior to and during the period of the enumeration process, there were slews of allegations of wanton corruption and uncontrollable mismanagement of census funds causing distrust, postponements and pointless delays to the original start dates.

“As the fraudulent census proceeded against the advice of experts, we saw documentary evidence of transfer of census funds into private accounts and disbursements made to individuals who made no justifiable contribution to the census process. We listened firsthand to the revelations of expats pointing accusing fingers to top managers conniving to share census money among themselves

According to LISGIS 97% released NPHC report, Grand Kru, President George Weah Home County recorded the highest percentage change in population growth (89%). Without stating, the agents of this grand conspiracy against the Liberia people will have you believe that the “Push and Pull” factor that led to migration or a concentration of population in particular locality are very well present in the President’s home county. That basic social service, such as Water, good roads, Schools, Hospitals, good housing facilities, and better economic activities which could attract many Liberians from other parts of the country over the years to Grand Kru County”, a group of political parties reacted to the census recently.

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